Friday, October 10, 2014

Where have all the genealogists gone?

A couple of days ago I was reading a genealogy newsgroup, and someone asked where all the genealogists had gone and noted that

In the period 2000-2007 there was a very active community of enquiries on Rootsweb Mailing lists, both general ones like this and the County lists were particularly popular.

Now the number of messages a month is in some cases only 2% of what it was at its peak.  If there has been an increase in interest over the last 10 years, why has the interaction between genealogists apparently declined?

This morning I was going through the Genealogy blogs lists on BlogCatalog, and noticed how many of them had closed, or not been updated for several years. One group in particular struck me: the Association of Graveryard Rabbits. The site hasn't been updated since January 2009, and nor have most of the linked blogs. Does that mean all the graveyards have been sorted, or that people have just lost interest and are doing something else? 

The linked sites were quite interesting. and though they had not been updated recently, at least they had not been closed. Closing a blog or a web site is a horrible thing, because it breaks links, sometimes lots of them, and is very frustrating for web users. So thanks to the owners of those abandoned blogs for not closing them.

But where have all the genealogists gone? Was it just the hobby of one generation, and those who took it up have been unable to interest their children in it? Will all the material they have collected be tossed out when they die, or be left to moulder on a hard disk in an attic somewhere, to be tossed out by the great grandchildren, who have no idea how to recover data from such obsolete technology?

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Cemetery recording

Yesterday we learned some relatives had been buried in a nearby cemetery, and though there was a picture of the gravestone on line at the eGGSA site, the inscription was faded and hard to read. The Silverton cemetery was close enough, so we went to have a look. The grave was of Karl Jacob Denneville and Gladys Adelheid Dennewill -- if you are interested in what we discovered about them, check our other blog here. But in this post we are describing how we went about recording them.

It seemed like a good opportunity to come to grips with the BillionGraves Android app.

In theory it is simple: take a photo of the gravestone inscription with a cellphone, upload it to the BillionGraves database and there it is, waiting for someone to look at it, with the GPS coordinates showing its exact location.

We'd tried it a couple of times before, when we'd been on holiday far from home, and seen a grave of some relative. But it somehow never seemed to work. But this was close to hom. I printed out the instructions, and carefully read the web site on the computer at home, so this time it would surely work. It didn't

The pictures wouldn't upload. I thought I'd delete them and try again. The application crashed. It also seemed locked on the wrong cemetery -- it showed Mamelodi cemetery, which was about 4 km away. There is a thing for adding another cemetery, but when you're actually in the cemetery, looking at a squitty little screen on a phone in bright sunlight, it's easy to miss that option.It has a thing for linking two or more photos of the same gravestone, but it is also hard to see what pressing the link has done, if anything.

So we took pictures on ordinary digital cameras as well -- no good for BillionGraves, because they don't have GPS positioning to inpoint the location of the grave.

We went home again, and then with our WiFi were able to upload the photos. And, after a lot of fruitless efforts, we finally managed to enter a new cemetery into the database.

With the photos taken on ordinary cameras we were able to record them on the Find-a-Grave site, where one has to do everythin g manually, but at least you can see whether it has worked and what is there.

So both sites are very useful. If BillionGraves is working as advertised with no glitches, then it's brilliant. You can zip down a row at a cemetery taking a photo every couple of seconds and upload them every 5 graves or so.

With Find-a-Grave you have to upload each picture individually, link it to the right cemetery, and type in the name of the person mentioned on the stone. Even at it's best, it's more work. But it's reliable.

BillionGraves is quick when it works well, but slow and frustrating when it doesn't. But it's a good idea and deserves support.

I have one recommendation to make. If you join BillionGraves, look first at the Transcription option. That lets you index people and transcribe epitaphs that other people have photographed. The value of that is that you can get a better idea of how the site worls, and become familiar with it. It could be that that will reduce fumbling and floundering when you get to a cemetery and you're not sure what is happening.

The trouble is that, like the recording of graves, when the transciption system works, it works well, but four times out of five I get the message "Oops... we just had an error on our side. Try again later"